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Monday, November 5, 2007

Mont'Kiara: The real estate success story

Kuala Lumpur's exclusive enclave of Mont'Kiara may be an obvious property hotbed, but is there too much happening too soon there?

"No" is the response of two of the location's key players — Datuk Alan Tong of Bukit Kiara Properties and Datuk Michael Yam of Sunrise Bhd — and they explain why.

Mont' Kiara today has gained the critical mass to continue to prosper. Add to that the limited supply of vacant land that puts a natural limit on future supply - Tong

The rising cost of building materials will likely further push up prices. Steel bar prices have risen by more than 14% and ready-mix concrete prices by 13.8% - Yam

Tong, the founder of Sunrise, before he exited the company in 1997, note that Mont'Kiara today has gained the critical mass to continue to prosper. Add to that the limited supply of vacant land that puts a natural limit on future supply. "Thus for those who own Mont'Kiara properties, the future looks quite good as it will only grow upwards," reasons Tong, dubbed "Condo King" by the local real estate fraternity and past World President of International Real Estate Federation (Fiabci).

Sunrise's Yam says the escalating cost of building materials will likely further push up prices. "Within a period of 12 months from last January, steel bar prices have risen by more than 14% and ready-mix concrete prices by 13.8%. Construction costs have gone up over the years; in 1998 it was RM150 psf but now, it is an average of RM300 psf," said Yam who added that, last year, Malaysian property prices were similar to Bangkok but cheaper than Singapore.

Rising values
Both Tong and Yam were speaki
ng at The Edge Investment Forum on Real Estate 2007; on the topic The Real Estate Success Story — Mont'Kiara: A Developer's Perspective.

Tong recalls how the first Sunrise project, Mont'Kiara Pines, completed in 1993, was sold at an average of RM190 psf, with subsequent launches of Mont'Kiara Palma at RM210 psf and then Mont'Kiara Pelangi at RM230 psf.

The latest Sunrise product, the RM800-million 11@Mont'Kiara is on the market tagged at RM727 psf onwards. Save for bumiputera units, the 6-star luxury condo with 342 units has been sold even before an official launch.

Data compiled by Sunrise shows that its properties have enjoyed capital appreciation of up to 60% with yields from 8% to 12% (see chart).

Yam notes that for capital appreciation to be sustainable, it must be driven by fundamentals like supply and demand, economic cycles, population growth, socio-demographics, government policies, interest rates and changing lifestyles.
"Based on the original price, Palma has a gross yield of 14.53% — a 1,300 sq ft unit was sold at RM289,000. With current selling prices of RM518,000, gross yields are at 8.1%. As long as yields are more than the effective mortgage rate, there will be an upside. There is potential healthy capital appreciation upside of 50%," he states.

Yam says that from 1991 to 2007, Sunrise Bhd had completed some 3,200 condo units in the location, while other developers built another 2,700 units. "This works out to an average of 368 units per annum and when the additional 4,500 units developed by Sunrise and others come onstream in four years, the average supply of condos in Mont'Kiara would be 520 units per annum," he offers.

He adds that the "guesstimate-per-annum-constant-demand" for upmarket residences is estimated at 5% of the 80,000-annual property needs in the Klang Valley. "Around 4,000 units of high-end homes are required. Thus, from this forecast of housing needs, demand for luxury products outweighs supply," he reasons.

Tong: This was how Mont' Kiara looked like back in 1989

Mont' Kiara's skyline today

The Mont'Kiara story

Mont'Kiara may be a desirable address now but it did not quite start off this way, Tong shars. He should know. It all happened in late 1989.

"A real estate broker came to see me and offered me a 10-acre tract in Segambut for RM6 psf. I was preoccupied with other projects at that time, and found the deal not very appealing. The next year, the same broker came by and this time I paid attention," Tong recalled.

The first time Tong saw the land, it was simply an old rubber plantation full of undergrowth with no visible access. The nearest road was two km away. The terrain was hilly and impossible for the building of conventional housing such as terraced homes or semidees.

At that time, he had just completed his first condominium, OUG Heights, on the periphery of Overseas Union Garden. The 10-acre OUG Heights in Kuala Lumpur sits on what used to be an old, hilly rubber estate, initially without any access. This project — comprising three blocks of 23-storey medium-cost condominiums with 394 units — was completed in 1988.

The ingredients of Mont'Kiara's success were hatched in OUG Heights, a project Tong started building 13 years after he bought the land. "If OUG Heights could materialise after 13 years of the land purchase, I thought perhaps a miracle could happen in Segambut in 10 years. After all, the site had potential; it was only five km from the Golden Triangle," Tong says.

But there were no economies of scale. As it panned out, within a year, Tong managed to acquire 12 parcels of land totalling 100 acres in the Segambut Rubber Estate, which he later renamed Mont'Kiara. "In the meantime it was discovered that KL City Hall was starting to build the access from Intan to Seri Hartamas from Jalan Kuching. We felt it was faster and easier to construct our own access road." The rest, as they say, is history.

Traffic woes
Tong does not deny that there were some traffic concerns that needed to be addressed. "It is typical in any fast growing and expanding locality for there to be an amount of congestion. A new road between Jalan Kiara and Jalan Kiara 3 will greatly help to ease off traffic in the surrounding area," Tong offers.

Meanwhile Yam says that new infrastructure, the Jalan Duta-Kiara flyover was opened last December and provides an alternative route to KL's city centre. "Preliminary traffic studies by consultants, based on projected population and traffic growth, indicates acceptable levels of outward and inward vehicular movement," Yam points out.

Yam adds that as Mont'Kiara evolves into a more self-sufficient and self-contained enclave, there would be less outward traffic.

From April to May this year, Sunrise conducted an owner's satisfaction survey in its Mont'Kiara projects of Pines, Palma, Pelangi, Sophia, Plaza Mont'Kiara, Astana, Bayu, Laman Suria, Aman and Damai.

"The 605 respondents ranked the top reasons for deciding to live in our condos as: the convenient and strategic location, security efforts, good maintenance and conducive living environment," says Yam.


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